Award-winning, Los Angeles-based artist Amy Martin will release her first illustrated children’s book, Symphony City, this July by McMullen’s, McSweeney’s newest imprint for children's books. Known for her intricate, often political, and exceptionally beautiful illustration and design work, Martin has quickly made a name for herself as a sought-after illustrator, graphic designer, and art director. Martin has designed and illustrated books, magazines, newspapers, products, ad campaigns and posters for clients including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, 826LA, Death Cab for Cutie, and Band of Horses. After a series of retro-inspired time travel posters she created for 826LA became one of its most profitable fundraisers, Martin went on to design several more posters for them and their sister organization McSweeney's (including the popular "How To Be Death Cab for Cutie" poster for McSweeney's San Francisco Panorama) prior to Eggers commissioning her to create Symphony City.
The catalyst of inspiration for Martin's work has always been music; in fact, she can go through and pinpoint the exact artist and song that she was listening during the creative process for each of her many illustrations. Among the bands that inspired the illustrations in Symphony City, Martin counts Sufjan Stevens, Black Atlantic, Radio Dept., Teenage Fanclub, Death Cab For Cutie and Telekinesis all as unknowing collaborators.
Symphony City visually explores a day-in-the-life of a young girl after she is separated from her grandfather in the subway on the way to see the city orchestra. At first frightened by the sudden experience of being alone, she develops the courage to explore on her own upon hearing music throughout the city—first from buskers in the subway station and later a rock band on the sidewalk. Set against a fantastical urban backdrop of soaring skyscrapers and sparkling subway stations, Symphony City takes its visual inspiration from rock shows, capturing the illusive moments when, with the stage lights swirling, you literally become lost in the music. Martin, who was inspired by the visual vocabulary of rock show posters, Japanese wood block prints, and artist Charley Harper, created Symphony City in an attempt to capture the experience of seeing her favorite bands perform. The theme of constant movement also apparent in the book, came from her own experience of traveling almost nonstop from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, and back again, while making it. The prevailing themes that Martin captures throughout Symphony City are the willingness to overcome fear and the transformative power of music.